Billions at stake, global biggies battle it out to make fighter jets for India

As the Ministry of Defence readies to look at procuring fighter jets in big numbers, global plane makers, attracted by billion-dollar projects, are back in the Indian market.

India needs at least 400 fighter jets over the next 10 years with a mix of single-engine and twin-engine options. It has just about kick-started the single-engine jet programme and will look at the twin-engine options in the near future.

Swedish military equipment maker Saab today announced its India partnership with the Adani Group. The notable immediate is to produce ‘Gripen-E’ fighter jets in India. Saab president and CEO Hakan Buskhe announced the partnership with the Adani group.

Terming it as strategic collaboration, Adani group chairman Gautam Adani said: “We announce cooperation in defence and aerospace, including the Gripen.”

Besides Saab, the other major global single-engine plane maker, Lockheed Martin of the US, had in July this year announced a tie-up with Tata for making Block 70 of the F-16 jets in India.

In February this year, the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had announced the need for 400 fighter jets over the next decade and promised to start the process within 2017.

The Ministry of Defence has okayed the need for 100 single-engine jets from a foreign maker. The remaining 120 single–engine planes, the Tejas, are being made by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, the Bangalore-based MoD-owned public sector undertaking. The previous such bid to have fighter jets was officially launched in 2001 to get 126 twin-engine modern technology jets. It was scrapped 14 years later in 2015.

New Delhi had ended up buying only 36 of the twin-engine Rafale jets from Dassault Aviation, France. The need for some 160-odd twin-engine jets still remains.

On August 28, Dan Gillian, Boeing vice-president, said in New Delhi: “We are talking about creating a next generation facility in India. We think the F/A 18 Super Hornet (a twin-engine plane) is the most advanced airplane that India can manufacture.”

In January this year, Russia unveiled its latest MiG-35 jet and offered to have production line in India. European offer for the Eurofighter Typhoon is another option on offer to India and so is Rafale looking at more orders.

By: Tribune India

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